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Last Updated: Friday, 27 January 2006, 21:41 GMT
Demonstration over Springer show
Jerry Springer - The Opera protest
A group of about 30 people protested outside the theatre
Protesters have staged a demonstration outside a Devon theatre which is staging the first performance in a UK tour of Jerry Springer - The Opera.

The musical began at Plymouth's Theatre Royal on Friday.

A group of about 30 people, calling themselves committed Christians, gathered outside the theatre.

The city's archdeacon and two ex-lord mayors have criticised the show as "unacceptable", but its creator said it is "not blasphemous".

Archdeacon the Venerable Tony Wilds said the show's abuse of religious figures was "unfair and unacceptable" and that it was a "serious misjudgement" to put it on.

This is not a blasphemous show. It's quite edgy, but it's funny and I make no apologies for that
Richard Thomas, author

Police said they would keep an eye on the situation, but did not expect any trouble from the protesters.

Richard Thomas, who wrote the stage show, said people should see it themselves and make up their own mind.

He told BBC News: "This is not a blasphemous show. It's quite edgy, but it's funny and I make no apologies for that whatsoever."

The Theatre Royal, which is co-producing the musical, said it respected people's opinions, but added they had a choice whether to go or not.

"It's the only musical in the history of theatre in this country which has won all four national best music awards", said Adrian Vinken.

In a statement entitled "Freedom, not hate in Plymouth", the Venerable Wilds joined in criticism of the show by former mayors Tom Savery and David Stark, plus ministers and members of five other Christian denominations.

Shocking role

In it they said: "Though we understand and accept that there is a role for art to shock, we do not accept that in the case of this production the form and degree of shock is justified."

The archdeacon's statement added: "To those who say that those who may be offended need not see the production, we say yes.

"But unfairly they have already had to pay for it in very considerable public subsidies at both national and local levels."

The show, which features characters playing Jesus, Mary and God as guests on Springer's TV programme, was been seen by 425,000 people in the West End and was watched by an audience of 2.4m when it was shown on BBC Two in January 2005.

But its content, which includes up to 200 swear words, led to the BBC receiving a record 63,000 complaints.


BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
Watch the criticism and defence of a controversial musical



SEE ALSO:
Springer tour faces new protests
26 Jan 06 |  Entertainment
Actors rally against Springer ban
09 Dec 05 |  Entertainment
Springer tour saved by theatres
20 Sep 05 |  Entertainment


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